Dam it?: Hydropolitics in the changing political context of Nepal
Global fresh water resources are becoming increasingly threatened by the world’s growing population. The heightened issues and debates over access and development of these waters are frequently challenged by a variety of stakeholders across a range of political scales. Hydropolitical theory explores these debates and the environments surrounding the access and development of freshwaters that intersect political boundaries. Under-developed landlocked nation’s with significant freshwater resources, such as Nepal, provide an interesting context in which to examine hydropolitical theory. The vast source of water that flows from the Himalaya’s provides opportunities for large hydropower development in Nepal that could solve the nation’s crippling power crisis, but hydropower development policies of the nation may hinder national economic development in favour of encouraging foreign enterprise. This thesis examines the actors involved in shaping and directing Nepal’s hydropower sector since the nation became a democratic republic in 2006 and considers the influence of these agents over the Government of Nepal during this early period of political change. The research was centred a round the case study of the West Seti Hydroelectric Project, a controversial large scale dam proposal in rural Far Western Nepal. The social, environmental, cultural and economic issues of this project have attracted attention from international concern groups that have challenged the Government of Nepal to demand greater benefits for the Nepal in allowing large multilaterals to develop export-orientated hydropower from the nation’s valuable freshwaters. Qualitative methods were employed to undertake elite and key informant interviews with a range of politicians, hydropower businesspeople, hydro experts and engineers, local and international NGOs and affected local peoples. The research found that Nepal’s complex hydropolitical environment presents a theoretical challenge to the way that current literature conceives the actors involved in shaping the purpose and extent of the nation’s hydro projects. Hydropolitical activity was found to occur across a range of political scales, both within and across political boundaries as different stakeholders exert their power over transboundary waters. Stakeholders and agents exist and work to influence central decision-making bodies to define policies in their favour. The context within Nepal reflects how there is a need for hydropolitical theory to redefine and extend the scales and spaces in which hydropolitical activity is considered and explored.
Advisor: Hill, Douglas
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: hydropolitics; Nepal; transboundary waters; geopolitics; West Seti Hydroelectric Project; development; Government of Nepal; export-orientated hydropower; hydrodams; non-state actors; multilateral organisations; Asian Development Bank; Non-Government Organisations
Research Type: Thesis